Yarmouth fourth-graders marked school windows as a temporary measure to limit the reflection of the glass and prevent birds from flying into them. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

Yarmouth fourth-graders are on a mission to make their school the first bird-safe school in the state.

The 120 Yarmouth Elementary School pupils are participating in a collaborative project between the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math program, or STEAM, and BirdSafe Maine, a joint initiative of Maine Audubon, the Portland Society for Architecture and the University of Southern Maine to address the problem of bird window strikes in Maine.

After learning about the threats birds face during migration, including windows, the students are helping to write a grant for Yarmouth Educational Association funding for a permanent solution to prevent birds from flying into the school windows. Each year, up to 1 billion birds die in the U.S. as a result of hitting  buildings and reflective glass, research shows. 

Yarmouth fourth-graders celebrate after creating migration murals on their school windows. In front are Maeve Dyer and Hazel O’Connor. Standing, from left, are: Faveur Tshabu, Margaret Bessey, Otis Queally and Sylvie Mocciola. Contributed / Sonya Kahlenberg

As a stopgap measure, the students have created “migration murals” on the windows to cut down on the reflection, but they hope their grant will result in permanent decals for the windows. They’re also open to other solutions such as window shades, dot patterns or paint screens.

BirdSafe Maine recently completed its 2022 fall migration census, and this year its volunteers found 206 birds that had died from collision in Portland, almost double from last year, according to Sonya Kahlenberg, a lead on the project and volunteer on the Organizing Committee for BirdSafe Maine.

Before the Yarmouth students’ project began, they found two birds that died after hitting the schools’ windows, said Nicole Colfer, STEAM teacher at Yarmouth Elementary.


“Our hope is to do something about our high-risk windows,” Colfer said. 

During their STEAM project, which began in September, the students also have learned to identify bird species, studied taxidermied birds that were victims of window strikes in Portland and navigated a migration obstacle course.  

“It was really fun, and they taught us a lot about migration and what the threats are,” said fourth-grader Hazel O’Connor. “It was really fun birding with the binoculars.” 

Student Faveur Tshabu said her favorite part of the project was a game in which some students playing birds trying to migrate while other students were the “threats.” Tshabu was a hurricane, using pool noodles to try to catch birds on their flight.  

“I was surprised at how many birds die from windows and cats,” said Otis Queally.

The project has inspired the students to always keep an eye out for birds. After they went birding, they began forming groups at recess to look for birds on their own, said Colfer, who plans to continue offering the lessons in the future based on this year’s success.

BirdSafe Maine hopes to partner with other schools in the state to get kids excited about birds and “become part of the solution to make Maine safer for birds,” Kahlenberg said.



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